Tagged: freedom

Stepping into the Light After Having Sex Before Marriage

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Someone once asked how Grant and I resisted sexual temptation before we got married. She was struggling with temptation herself and was hoping for some encouragement and guidance. I gave her the truth.

“We didn’t.”

Like many other couples in today’s sex-obsessed culture, Grant and I didn’t save sex for marriage. An intense relationship and long engagement paired with too much freedom led to a lifestyle of sin that we took much care to conceal. We loved our church community and being in student ministry together and feared that coming clean would mean having to choose between serving in ministry and serving our fleshly desires. To avoid that decision, we feigned purity in the public light and continued living out the opposite behind closed doors. Eventually we started to believe we weren’t doing anything wrong.

I know that our experience is not unique. Statistics show that a majority of young Christians are not waiting until marriage. Some are simply swept away by a passionate moment and then don’t get the help they need to make it back to shore. The current often carries them much farther than they intended to go and makes it much harder to swim back.

It’s unsettling yet not shocking that many of our friends, like us, are carrying around secrets of sexual sin to one degree or another. Some have been carrying around secrets since before they began a relationship with Jesus, while some started carrying them after. Some are in ministry. A few of these couples are married now; others are single. And there is one thing we’ve all shared in common: the fear of bringing our sin to light.

There’s something about knowing that you’re not living out the godly, pure Christian walk that is expected of you that makes it more difficult to ask for accountability or be honest about the difficulty of staying pure until marriage. Sometimes it just seems easier to cling to the excuses and justifications that make you feel as though what you’re doing is not that bad. Our culture’s way of normalizing sex and making purity a joke doesn’t help matters either.

Now that Grant and I are on the other side of it all, we realize that this is something we don’t want to see other couples get caught up in. We understand now that choosing purity is not a matter of checking something off the “good Christian” to-do list, but rather a path designed by God for our protection. It is not only the best way to enjoy relationships and marriage, but also what helps preserve peace and joy in both faith and ministry. It’s a fruit he and I will never get to taste. This is why I’m sharing our story today.

Instead of adding onto the fear and guilt that encourages men and women to conceal and stay in their sexual sin, we want to offer a message of freedom that can help get them out. And it starts with pointing to what Jesus has done. How he walked with Grant and I on our dirty, broken path. How he brought us into a covenant of marriage and breathed new life into our faith. How he showered us with immeasurable grace we could never earn or deserve. But most of all, how he transformed our “worldly sorrow,”  the kind that “brings death,” into “godly sorrow,” the kind that “brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Godly sorrow. This is what the Lord has been teaching me and what I hope begins to move in the hearts of those who know the pain of sexual sin all too well.

It’s true that now being married to Grant “softens the blow” in some regards; it makes our sin a little less scandalous or a little more easily forgiven, at least in our minds. But I still have sorrow. I have sorrow for the wedding night and first year of marriage that wasn’t quite what I had dreamt of. I have sorrow for the day when we will have to share this part of our story with our children, when we will be to them a warning to heed rather than an example to follow. I have sorrow for my relationship with the Lord that suffered as I carried around the weight of my guilt.

I also have sorrow because I know that as I confess this now, I am probably disappointing people I care about — family members and friends who believed Grant and I were doing things right, friends and mentors who encouraged me and gave me sweet advice for what they thought would be our first time on our wedding night, faithful readers who’ve applauded my authenticity and honesty, pastors and leaders within the church who expected and trusted me to pursue purity, and students under my leadership who looked up to me.

But when I say that we now have a godly sorrow rather than a worldly sorrow, I mean that while there is still a longing for things to have gone a different way, there is also an acceptance that this is our story, a desire to move on and heal, and faith that God will use it for good.

This is different from the sorrow I once had when I was grieving more because of my guilt than because of my loss, when I felt too burdened by what I had done to want to bring my sin to light or make amends with the Lord. The weight I was carrying became so heavy that the only way I could think of to keep moving forward was to pretend it wasn’t there. This is worldly sorrow. And it only leads to death — death of hopes and dreams for the future, death of authenticity and transparency, and death of a once vibrant relationship with God.

Godly sorrow, on the other hand, leads to repentance, salvation, and a life not hindered by regret. It leads to freedom. And the only way to get from A to B, from this worldly sorrow to godly sorrow, is to take your eyes off that sin and instead put it on the Son on the Cross. Believing that the only reason you could ever be victorious over that sin is because of the victory Jesus won for you. Trusting that “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). Allowing yourself to accept that it’s never too late to turn back, to run into the Heavenly Father’s open arms and take hold of the mercy and grace he’s so freely offering you.

Grant and I don’t live with much regret anymore. We live with freedom instead. And if we had only believed that we could live with that freedom back then, things would probably have gone a lot differently. I don’t think we would’ve hesitated to get help and ask for accountability when we needed it. I don’t think we would’ve made excuses or tried to hide from God or from the church. I don’t think we would’ve wanted to remain in our sin. Not if we had truly tasted freedom, if we had remained captivated with the Cross.

The reason I’m sharing these things is because I believe in the power of godly sorrow, of repenting and allowing yourself to receive God’s grace to start anew.

If you are feeling the weight of worldly sorrow and the regrets of a sin you just can’t outrun, I wish I could be sitting across from you right now. I’d put down my coffee, grab your hands as I meet your eyes, and say these words with the sincerest love and longing for you. “I understand you. I don’t judge or condemn you. And I want more for you. The Lord wants more for you. Even now, no matter how far you’ve gone, he longs for you to know his love and choose a better way.” I hope that in that moment, you would realize you still have a small voice inside of you saying, “Actually, I want more for myself, too.”

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

In the light there is relationship and community. Renewal and cleansing. It’s a place where perfect love trumps fear. There’s no room for shame; it’s just a wide open space of freedom.

And you, my dear friend, are invited to step in.

If You Want to Love Your Kids

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Everywhere we go, we’re given messages of what mothers should do or ought to do to prove her love for her kids. We’re covertly told that a mother’s love is based on her works, that every decision she makes is a statement about how much she cares for her child. Natural birth or medicated. Breastmilk or formula. Working or staying at home. Vaccines or none. Public or homeschool. Positive parenting or spanking. Crafts or TV. Processed or organic.

I am guilty of believing the lie, of putting certain things up on a pedestal. I wouldn’t dare claim that any of these things make or break a mother’s love, but I like to cling to my “camps”, the moms who are doing it just like me. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I’m “doing it right” and I need to do the world a favor by showing them what’s best.

But the Lord is in the business of kicking legalism to a curb. He finds ways to remind me that I have nothing and can do nothing to earn the approval I so desperately crave. He’s humbling me as I allow him to guide me closer to his heart for motherhood. And I realize now that his motto is not “breast is best” and his priority is not to put every mother into the home. I notice that he doesn’t favor the moms who only feeds her kids organic and he doesn’t punish the ones who send their kids off to public school. I see that he equips parents to love on their kids in unique, individualized ways and that he is found in many different kinds of parenting and discipline.

I know now that the biggest favor I can do for any mom isn’t to go on and on about why they should choose a certain style of mothering or why they should follow my example. The biggest favor I can do for any mom is to point them to Jesus. Why?

Because that “love” we’re putting all our hope and boasting in? The love that’s merely a collection of our good deeds based on our society’s ever-changing standards? The love that’s equated with what we put in our babies’ mouths, how many shots they’ve had, and who’s watching them? Well, it can’t hold a candle to the love of Jesus, the love that led him to the Cross. The love that defeated death for the undeserving. The love that throws shame to the curb. The love that promises fullness of life, both now and for eternity.

The love that he wants to shower you with so you can stop the useless striving and comparing and live in freedom instead. The love he wants to use through you to bring his kingdom near.

You want to leave a legacy? To love your kids in such a way that it stands out, transforms your family from the inside out, and doesn’t leave you exhausted or empty in the process?

Then love your kids as a mom changed and led by the Gospel.

Love your kids as a mom who’s freed from the pressure to attain perfection, who allows herself and others to be the messy, amazing people they were made to be.

Love your kids not as a mom who’s enslaved to her circumstances or emotions, but as one who’s dancing in the grace freely offered from heaven and rejoicing in her redemption.

Love your kids as a mom whose eyes are fixed upward on the Giver of all good gifts and whose hands are raised in praise to the only One worthy of glory.

Love your kids as a mom who’s not moved by the pressures of this world or seeking to outdo the moms next to her, but is rather chasing after God’s best for herself and her family.

Your heart’s attitude and the perspective with which you view motherhood changes when you realize that you need Jesus and his die-to-self, unrelenting love just as much as the next mom. When you embrace this sort of love, you no longer care about how you compare to the moms next to you or who’s “doing it right” and who’s not. You’ll be too busy living out your calling of motherhood with the One who called you to it.

Can you imagine it?

Every day I am amazed at how much the Lord has left to teach me about love. As long as I’m trying to prove my love for my baby through every little thing I do, I know I still haven’t gotten it quite right. As long as I’m secretly comparing and competing, I know I still haven’t the faintest idea of what love is really all about. I mean, forget trying to learn how he wants me to love my kids! I still haven’t figured out how to be loved myself! But I want to.

Because one of the best and most freeing parts of his love is that it doesn’t depend on my perfection. It solely rests on his.

And if I can get this and embrace this with what little time I have on this earth, what can stop me from raising a family of planet-shakers? If the Lord is for me and I actually believe it, who can be against me? Is there anything quite so powerful as a mother on a mission, equipped with the truth that the world so desperately needs?

I’m daring to find out.

Take the Pressure Off: A Guest Post by Allie Shirley

Allie Shirley is a twenty-three-year-old, Jesus-loving entrepreneur, chasing after the dream Jesus has now brought to a reality. Marque Modest Apparel is a company set out to proclaim the name of Jesus, to rebrand modesty, and to inspire others to dream again. Aside from being a business owner, Allie is a mom to a Miniature Schnauzer named Emmie, has a passion for adoption, and is obsessed with sweet tea. To check out more from Allie, visit Marque Modest Blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram for updates on her latest posts.

A note from Allie: I pray that something shared in this blog post will encourage you, inspire you, and bring you a little freedom as you continue to walk with our precious Savior.

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Take the Pressure Off

As women we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to have things all together all the time when in reality those are unrealistic expectations for anyone. Yet we put those standards on ourselves daily and it leaves us feeling like we aren’t good enough or even depressed.

I know these feelings all too well because as much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m a perfectionist and an over-thinker. I get upset if my hair and makeup don’t look flawless, I obsess over my company being perfect, and I even try to put on a really good front before God that I have everything all together. Instead of coming before Him with my brokenness, I try to stand before Him like some supernatural human that can handle herself.

I don’t know what battle you are facing, whether it be comparison, materialism, perfectionism, or a slew of other things, but I do know we can take the pressure off. Jesus never meant for it to be there in the first place. He wants us to come as we are, to give ourselves grace for today and to live our lives in a way that is honoring to Him.

The day He went to the Cross He bought us our freedom from any insecurity, any shame, and any self-doubt. We can be confident in knowing that even when things are messy and even when our lives are broken that He is holding it all together. He is making our crooked path straight.

I could go on for days about what we deal with on a daily basis as women, but instead I would rather encourage you with truth. His Word is the only thing that can set you free from whatever is entangling you; I can only encourage you to seek that freedom.

Here are some of my favorite Scriptures that I pray encourage you to take a step toward finding freedom in him.

Come As You Are:

Matthew 11:28

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Anxiety Be Gone:

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Freedom in Jesus:

Galatians 5:1

“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free. STAND FIRM, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Psalm 119:45

“I will walk about in FREEDOM, for I have sought out your precepts.”

Peace that Passes Understanding:

Isaiah 26:3

“You will keep in PERFECT PEACE those whose minds are steadfast, because they TRUST in You.”

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you truly want to take the pressure off and be set free from whatever you are bound by, the Word of God is where you will find that freedom.

Praying that each of you will find your identity, security, self-worth, value, and ultimately your freedom in Jesus alone. The world can’t give you what Jesus can. Run to Him; His arms are wide open.

. . . . .

A note from Jessie: this week, I am part of a guest blog loop with the Bloggish community. Allie is a part of the Bloggish community with her blog at Marque Modest Apparel, where you can read more of her posts and check out her clothing line. To read a guest post written by me, check out To Raise an Ebenezer. Continue to follow the links to read more posts and find bloggers you love! Happy reading!

From Darkness to Light

Image by Noelle Buske on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/d1i8Mj)

Image by Noelle Buske on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/d1i8Mj)

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you– Psalm 139:7-12

Sometimes I feel like King David hiding in a cave.

Venturing out is just too dangerous. Everywhere he turns, he encounters enemy after enemy. They are looking to kill him.

He fears for his life. All he can do is wait in the dark and beg the Lord to avenge him, to give him back even just a small portion of what he once had.

And all the while, David’s eyes are becoming accustomed to the dark. He’s becoming accustomed to hiding and running.

The question that remains is, can he outrun God? Will he reach a point of no return as he dives deeper into this dark, empty cave?

No.

No darkness is too dark or impenetrable for the light of God’s presence.

I, like King David, have found myself again and again in an all-too-familiar cave. Enemies all around. Blocked entrance. No room to breathe.

Darkness upon darkness upon darkness.

And yet I can testify that the Lord has never left me. It doesn’t matter how alone I feel. The reality is He’s been there all along. He’s been fighting my enemies. He’s been paving a way out for me. He’s been breathing air into my lungs.

There is no such thing as too much dark or too much sadness or too much sin or too much pain. At least, those things aren’t too much for the healing touch of God.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Sometimes you will feel like the gap between where you are and where you long to be is just too wide.

But His love is wider still.

Sometimes you will feel like time is going by too slowly and it’s been far too long. You’re too far gone.

But His love is longer still.

Sometimes you will feel like the wall you built to block out the world is too high to ever climb over, too strong to ever break down.

But His love is higher still.

Sometimes you will feel like you’re in over your head and the hole you’ve found yourself in is just too deep.

But His love is deeper still.

There is no place we can run that God can’t follow. And while that might not sound reassuring to some, it is the greatest of blessings. There will come a time when you’re tired of the darkness (I know I sure am), and that will be the opportunity for the greatest story of redemption ever told to unfold.

Let His light pierce the darkness. Let’s get out of these caves.

The Cycle of Perfectionism

Love is something we all long for and crave, whether it’s from our friends, from family, from our significant others, or from God. No one wants to feel like they’re not valued or loved or cherished, especially if they make the effort to love and care for others.

An obstacle to love that I’ve observed in my life and also in the lives of those around me is all-too-consuming perfectionism that can go unnoticed and usually goes unchecked.

Perfectionism is defined as the “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”, and unfortunately, this is a factor in many relationships. Instead of allowing their loved ones to mess up and make mistakes, many expect perfection and a completion of all their “requirements” to gain their love and affection.

I am also guilty of allowing perfectionism to affect my relationships. What I have found is that a lot of my perfectionism stems from insecurity and fear of not being loved as deeply as I desire. When someone I love makes a mistake or does something that disappoints or upsets me, I take it to the extreme- not because I think they’re awful human beings, but because I’m afraid that it means they don’t love me or won’t always treat me right. I turn one mistake into an entire war.

This perfectionism occurs in a cycle. I not only expect perfection from the people I love, but I also expect perfection from myself for the people I love. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough for their love, and then when it seems true, I turn it on them by saying they’re not good enough for MY love. Only bitterness and anger ensues.

The truth we need to grasp and firmly believe is this: We do not need to earn people’s love and we have no right to expect others to earn ours.

What I believe and want to suggest to you is that in order to break the chains and cycle of perfectionism, we need to first find the source of our perfectionism that is affecting us (i.e. insecurity, fear, bitterness) and then run to Jesus with what we find so he can give us the love and power to break the perfectionism we affect others with.

Because Jesus is perfect, all that He does is perfect. That includes perfect love. He is the quintessence of the love that we all crave and desire. Oftentimes, the problem is that we either don’t believe this or we don’t put much stock into this because we’d rather have earthly, imperfect, prone-to-fail love. It doesn’t make much sense when it’s spelled out like that, but when it comes to love, many things don’t. Why do we look to people to fulfill and satisfy us when only Jesus can? Jesus never asks us to earn His love; in fact, His love has already been freely given to us. Nothing we could ever say or do could change that.

God is love… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:15,18-19)

Once we let Jesus transform us from perfectionist beings to accepting-of-imperfection-ist beings, we then will be able to love people freely. This transformation only takes place when we grow in faith of His unfailing, perfect love for us.

Furthermore, when we love people freely, we then free them from expecting perfection from themselves, which helps discontinue the cycle that is occurring in many lives all around us. But the process starts with ourselves.

I warn you, the process is long and there will be many days, even months or years, where it’ll feel like nothing’s changing. One argument or fight or bad day can convince you that you’ll never change. My friends, this is a lie from satan. No chains are too strong for Christ. He can break every single one of them, and to think that one bad day or a string of bad days can change that is to doubt the power and freeing love of Christ.

We need to run to Jesus with our burdens and then let Him do the work in us. It will overflow into our relationships with others once we do. It will take time and patience, humility and self-searching, but it is all too worth it.

I hope this is of value to some of my readers. I certainly hope my experience and ability to relate encourages those who are suffering from relational perfectionism in some way, shape, or form. Perfectionism, whether diagnosed or just an undiagnosed observed part of your life, is able to be defeated and we can choose to end this cycle- not by our power alone, but through the power of Jesus Christ in us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Freedom to Roam

Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’? Does a young woman forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. (Jeremiah 2:31-32)

There is so much freedom found in the Lord and the love of Christ. Because of His blood shed on the cross, we are saved from our sin and the penalty of death. Because of His guidance and presence in our lives, we are never forced to face this life alone. We are showered with blessings, friends, family, and reasons for joy.

But at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves one very important question: how are we using this freedom?

In his letter to the church of Corinth, Paul addresses this freedom that is given to believers.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say— but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”— but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others… So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24,31)

I hear a lot of people say that because they are saved, they can do whatever they want. Yes… and no. It is true that believers have forgiveness of their sins and God’s grace is unending for those who repent. However, if true repentance means turning from our sins, how valid is our repentance if we continue to turn back? This is not to discredit the faith of those who are in bondage to sin. Rather, I’m referring to those who knowingly turn their back on Jesus and His teachings to pursue their own interests.

I think maybe the thing that hasn’t clicked in the minds of those people who continue chasing after things of this world is the concept of the freedom we truly have. This seems to be nonsensical because such people often use the idea of their unlimited freedom to argue for their sin, hence they appear to have a full awareness of this freedom.

But do they really? Because if they fully knew and understood this freedom given to them, why would they even want to live in sin any longer?

I believe that what Paul was really trying to say to the church in Corinth is “Yes, you do have the right to do anything you want. We are saved under the new covenant of Christ. But there is so much more to it than that. We are so free that we’re not even subject to this world. We don’t belong to this world. Our sole purpose here on earth is to glorify God- whether we’re eating or drinking or talking to friends or watching TV or reading a book. The point is that anything of this world holds us back- that’s why it’s not beneficial. We have a whole eternity of perfection and fellowship with Christ to look forward to. We’re so free from this world, surely we must act differently.”

My challenge for you is to rethink how you are using your freedom. Are you taking advantage of it to pursue your own selfish desires or are you using it to pursue the kingdom to which we are called?

I chose to begin this post with those two verses from Jeremiah to emphasize also who this freedom is for. Yes, it is for us, but it also serves to give us a relationship with God in which we can adorn ourselves with His grace and glorify His name.

Like the Israelites, we can argue that because of our freedom, there’s no reason to live solely for God. However, it actually is the opposite. Because of our freedom, we have EVERY reason to live solely for God.

And this freedom is a marvelous and beautiful thing.

The Book of Exodus Part 3

The book of Exodus is not just a story of the Israelites’ deliverance, though when read without really engaging, it may seem to be. The passover, referring to the protection of the Israelites from the plague on the firstborn, is parallel to Jesus. Stick with me here.

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn—both men and animals—and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”  (Exodus 12:12-13)

The Israelites were told to smear the blood of a lamb over their doorway, giving them protection from the plague that would affect the unbelieving Egyptians. In the morning, all the Egyptian firstborns would be dead, but the Israelites would be spared by God. The plague “passed over” them, hence the name “passover” for the remembrance of this event in history.

When reading about blood from a lamb, you may just think about a literal lamb. But when you make the connection to Jesus, it’s so much more. Repeatedly in the Bible, Jesus is called the lamb:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”    (John 1:29)

“In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'”     (Revelations 5:12)

After really thinking about it, you can see how Exodus is like a sign of Jesus’ coming. Jesus is the passover lamb whose\
blood ultimately rescues us from God’s wrath. This is why the book of Exodus is so much more than just a story. The events that happen in Exodus are miracles all by themselves, but when paralleled to Jesus our Lord and Savior, it just makes them so much more miraculous as reminders of God’s faithfulness and ability to change hearts and lives. Just like the Israelites, we are led out of slavery into freedom. “You were made free from sin, and now you are slaves to goodness.” (Romans 6:18) And that is surely something to rejoice about!